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Jaime Reyes did not exist.

Bart shuffled around in the ash, looking for anything valuable that could save his life. He nearly cried out when he spotted the old radiator. Snatching it up, he turned around to begin the long trek back to base.

All around him, Bart could see others digging in the snow and cinders, looking for things to save their lives. He clutched onto the radiator even harder. He wasn't about to lose it to some other scavenger.

The sun shone green. Sometimes it was purple. The gray sky made it hard to see. At night it was dark. The moon was there, faintly glowing.

Bart shook his head in anger. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be! The sun was always orange and yellow! The sky was blue, with white clouds! At night, the moon sat next to the stars. Where where the stars?

He answered his own question, since no one else would. The stars were still there, only hidden by the choking gray.

Jaime Reyes did not exist.

Lian watched as her daughter picked up a car stereo. "Diana, quick. Bring it here."

She obeyed, running quickly on bow-string legs. Lian took the stereo and tucked into the folds of her skirt. "Good girl."

"Is it enough, Mama?" Diana stared at her mother. Deep gray eyes met black. Lian smiled, thinking of her aunt. Those eyes were too fierce to be gray.

"I don't know. Maybe." Lian looked up. A young boy walked past them, holding onto a radiator. "Oh my." Her eyes widened with envy.

"He's lucky." Diana scoffed. "We don't need luck to save our lives." She turned around and plunged her hand back into the dirt. "I'll find something more, Mama."

Lian sat down on the hard earth, watching her daughter. She couldn't dig herself. Her right arm was gone.

Jaime Reyes did not exist.

Damian Wayne snarled as he picked up a shattered photo frame. He tossed it over her shoulder, deeming it worthless. How could he run? How could he fight? The rest of the world seemed content to sit back and let the Reach destroy what was left.

Everything he'd been taught was worthless.

He sat up on his knees, brushing the black charcoal off his hands. The young man's sharp eyes caught a boy carrying a radiator.

Finally, something with value.

Damain stood up. He walked past the others, and then ran, ready to overtake the kid. He nearly tripped over a girl digging next to her mother. The former hero was losing his touch.

He stretched out his hand, but the boy turned around and glared at Damian. Anger, defiance, determination. Damian saw himself. Himself when he was still coming up with ways to escape. Ways to save everyone and be the hero. Ways to fix this mess.

Damian smiled at the boy, pulling back his hand. He couldn't attack him.

He had value.

Jaime Reyes did not exist.

But it didn't mean that Blue Beetle was free from the constant fight within. Keeping his inner demon under control was harder for him than for the others of the Reach.

Let me out! Suélteme!

"Be quiet, meat." Blue Beetle muttered under his breath. He had too much work to do. He couldn't deal with this nagging thought. The workers were returning.

Beetle glared down at them. The blonde twins who were always crying brought a refrigerator door. The older man who'd lost his leg, hanging on to his brother, brought six intact lightbulbs. The teenaged girl who chewed her bottom lip brought a desk. He'd been watching these five, as they were on list. They'd saved their lives today with what they'd brought.

Turning around, he saw the boy, the one with the green eyes and brown hair. He'd brought in a radiator.

I need to talk to him!

"On your feet, slave." Beetle, in anger with himself, shot at the boy with his plasma cannon. "Don't make me tell you again."

The boy jolted, sitting up on his knees, clutching the precious radiator. Beetle felt something shift inside him. Power was being taken from his hands. He looked up at the sky for a brief moment. A faint orange light pierced the gray.

Jaime felt it. The mode was crashing. He had time, not much, but maybe enough.


The boy looked up in alarm. Beetle always called him meat, or #38672. Never his name.

"No, no, por favor, listen to me." Beetle fell onto the ground, struggling to keep Jaime silent. "I know you. I've watched you your whole life." The dark, crackling voice that was familiar with all the Reach was gone.

The boy stared with wide eyes, still holding on to the radiator.

"I-I'm not lying! This isn't a trick, Bart. I pick you. You have to go back, and stop th- I can't-" Jaime was feeling the tables turn. "-No! No, Bart listen, there's a machine. Go to Neutron, he can help you. You have to go back to crash the mode, ese. I've watched you, you're the only one who can."

Using all of his strength, Jaime propelled Beetle's arms forward. Bart lurched back in fear, but it was too late. Jaime had already torn off the inhibitor collar. "Go back, go to Neutron. Crash the mode." He gasped, his head bent forward in the dust. "Go back!"

Bart looked up at the others, who watched with full eyes.

"His collar-"

"He took off your collar!"

"Look at him! He can escape!"

They crowded around him, their mouths open, their hands reaching out to touch him, as if he wasn't real and they needed assurance. This boy was the embodiment of their impossible dreams. His collar was gone. He could run. He could run!

Bart laughed wildly, dropping the radiator. He wrapped his hands around his neck to see if it were true. It was gone.

Looking down at Beetle, he felt power shift into his hands. And with the power came a sense of direction. He knew where to go. He had to go back.

"I'll crash the mode, buddy." The crowd parted as he ran off.

I have no idea. It needed to be written.

Please review guys. :( I've gotten a lot fewer reviews than normal lately. If it's horrible, just tell me. At least I know people are reading beyond the first line.